Horses and Zebras

Truth and Tactics for Health Marketers

Are Narrow Networks the Achilles Heel of Provider Sponsored Health Plans?

Are Narrow Networks the Achilles Heel of Provider Sponsored Health Plans?

In our previous blogs we explored the pervasive trust issue associated with health insurers, and how it has far less of an impact on local/state, not-for-profit, and provider sponsored plans that deliver on a specific set of expectations associated with trust and member experiences.

While these attributes can provide tailwinds to the insurers described, the issue of panel size often creates an opposing headwind. For many members, panel size equates to one thing. Whether their doctor is in your plan.

BVK sought to determine just how much of a threat this factor presents.

In research shared in previous blogs, we discovered that a narrower network did not immediately disqualify a plan that offered competitive rates along with superior trust and experience features.

We also found that of the members that changed health plans in the last five years, the majority moved to plans with a smaller network in order to achieve cost savings.

The idea of a narrow network is far from new and certainly does not seem to have been a substantial impediment for those individuals or companies that made a change. Next, we explored the degree of resistance to accepting a narrow network defined as “not having my doctor.” We were specifically interested to see if this particular obstacle could be overcome by costs savings.

Roughly one fourth of respondents (26.4%) would not change plans for the offered price range (a savings of between $50 and $150 dollars per month) if their doctor would no longer be a network provider. This indicates the vast majority of people are willing to accept a network that does not include their physician for a price point that delivers significant savings.

The percentage of those willing to trade off at various price points was similar across insurance types and age ranges with two exceptions. Medicaid plan members were more likely to trade off at the $50 per month savings level. Medicare plan members, though less willing to trade off at the $50 level, were willing to consider the $100 and $150 levels. And the Medicare group also was slightly less willing to trade off at all at 30.4% (versus 26.4% for the total respondent base).

Bottom line: For approximately 74% of people, physician loyalty has a price.

There is one final data point that often comes up in conversations concerning narrow network pushback. In our previous table about feature importance related to the selection/retention decision, one of the features tested was the presence of recognized specialists in the network that were not currently needed by the member. While this can be a strongly felt need for some, only 8.7% of the respondents indicated it was a key criterion they would consider in plan selection. It appears to be a bigger barrier when considered in isolation, compared to when weighed with other factors.

What does this tell us? While narrow networks might still cause a visceral and negative reaction for some, these initial impressions can be counterbalanced through pricing, benefits and plan design. We have also learned that addressing trust behaviors and experiential desires can significantly impact decision making.

We have enjoyed bringing you what we believe to be critical learnings from our national research. Stay tuned for more industry insights as we continue to explore ways you can attract and retain more members!

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